Book Review: To the Farthest Shores by Elizabeth Camden
Sandra Ardoin @SandraArdoin
Another beautiful cover for an Elizabeth Camden historical. Her newest, To the Farthest Shores, takes place in 1904 California.
At the beginning of the Spanish-American War in 1898, Jenny Bennett is a civilian nurse at the army base at the Presidio in San Francisco. She’s fallen in love with a sailor, Lt. Ryan Gallagher, a patient in the hospital. After a whirlwind romance, they make plans for their future. Then he’s sent away, presumably to take part in the upcoming battles.
Skip ahead six years and Ryan has never returned. Jenny still works at the base, regularly checking with officials about his fate. But when he suddenly shows up at the Presidio, it throws her life into turmoil.
Jenny was born a tough, outspoken street kid until an impulsive jeweler took her in and gave her a stable home. Still, she’s guilt-ridden about things she did at a young age and feeling unworthy of forgiveness. Ryan is the son of missionaries. In dealing with being a minority in a foreign land, he learned at a young age to stuff his feelings and opinions.
‘Why didn’t you tell me you had returned to California?’ she asked. ‘I thought you would have gone back to Washington, D.C after the war.’
His brows lowered and he looked confused. ‘Why would I live in Washington?’
‘It’s where you lived for three years after you graduated from college.’
‘I never lived in Washington.’
She blinked, for it was a bold-faced lie.
Whenever Elizabeth Camden releases a new book, I’m all over it. This one sounded intriguing and, honestly, I found it hard to put down. As always, the historical aspects were fascinating and unusual—references to life in turn-of-the-20th-century Japan and the early days in the production of cultured pearls. The characters are deep, flawed, and created sympathy in me. Yet… (There’s always one of those, right? 🙂 )
Individually, I liked the main characters. Together … not so much.
Ms. Camden is generally a whiz at creating strong heroines and lovable bad boys, but I had a hard time getting into the romantic thread in this one. In the scenes in which they were together, I felt more connection between Jenny and secondary character, Finn Breckenridge. As for Ryan, I kept seeing an Alan Ladd character in my mind—blonde, soft-spoken, reticent. He’s good at hiding the truth. Okay, he downright and purposely lies. Some of it I understood. I also understood they provided the conflict between the hero and heroine. However, there were times when I thought the lies went too far, even for his character, and wanted to urge Jenny to run in the other direction.
I can recommend To the Farthest Shores as a historically-rich novel built on intrigue and interesting characters. Who knows? You may not agree with my assessment of the romance and can decide for yourself. I only know I sure hope she brings back that lovable bad boy and scoundrel, Finn, for a future story.
If you’ve read the book I’d love to know your thoughts. If not, have you ever read a novel in which you wished you could nudge the romance in a different direction?
I’m glad to read your opinion on this book. Like you, I love her writing, and I enjoyed the setting, but this hero… I both liked and disliked him. In the beginning, he had a good reason to lie to the heroine, but some of the lies he told toward the end left me really uncomfortable. They felt as if they’d been included to create additional conflict rather than being part of the story.
It’s not going to stop me from reading her future books, but I’m not sure I’d recommend this one to people.
Yes, Evelyn. That’s how I felt too. But, like you, it won’t keep me from future books. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the book! 🙂